Called Minister Task Force

Text of Worship Service 1/24/2021

Good morning & welcome to a metaphorical marriage proposal.

Debra Guthrie has served AUUC as a “Contract” Minister. A Contract Minister is hired by a congregation seeking a minister to serve less than ¾ time. Contracts are made with the board and written for one year. Contracts cover specific tasks, such as preaching; but do not cover all ministry services because the work is not full-time.  

Rev. Guthrie’s contract has been renewed and adjusted several times. The most recent contract included full-time work and all aspects of ministry. 

Rather than being hired by the board, a Settled Minister is “called” by the congregation.  Settled Ministers perform all aspects of ministry and outreach.  The UUA advises that congregations must determine if they are ready for a long-term permanent minister.  The minister must also decide “if committing to a long-term relationship with the congregation is the best course for all concerned, given the dynamics experienced during the contract period…”

The UUA has several processes by which congregations may “call” a settled minister. The most complex includes creation of a search committee and following a detailed process outlined by the Association. The “Contract to Call Process” allows congregations with Contract Ministers, to have the board, in effect, select the Contract Minister as the candidate to present. Much of the rest of the process is the same as the more elaborate “call” process just mentioned.

Last fall, the Board met with the Committee on Shared Ministry and the decision was made to seek a Settled Minister for AUUC.The pr oposal was made, and agreed upon, to follow the UUA’s “From Contract to Call Process” and take steps to call Rev. Guthrie to become a Settled Minister for AUUC.

In Task Force discussions, the difference between being a Contract Minister and a Settled Minister was likened to dating vs. marriage.  Both are personal relationships; but one being, potentially, less committed; and the other being deeply committed – covenantal even – and expected to be long-term.  So, in addition to the difference in the hiring process, there is a difference in the depth of the relationship between the Settled or Contract Minister and the congregation.

Now, Betsy will share the experience of a retired minister as she remembered her “call” to ministry and then Lynne will explain the process we hope to follow. After the service, there will be time for discussion and questions.

Shared Song

Sing to the tune of the Beatles “Hey Jude” 

Hey UU, we’ve been so glad 

Take a small church and make it bigger 

Remember to plan with all of your heart 

Then you can start to make it better 

Hey UU, we weren’t afraid 

You said to get you a minister 

The minute our reverend started to preach 

Then we began to become stronger 

Membership began to gain UU, it’s plain 

To see what we need for the future 

Week after week, we’ve come to know 

Our church will grow 

If we continue our shared ministry 

Na, na, na, nah, na, nah, nah nah nah !! 

Hey UU, it’s time to choose 

To go from contract to settled ministry 

Remember how the Rev have shared our light 

To fight the good fight 

To make it better 

And now that final phase begins UU, we’’ve been 

Set on this path of settled ministry 

Small groups will meet and then we’ll see

If you agree The moment is here to call a minister 

Hey UU, let’s all be glad 

To Take a small church and make it bigger 

Remember to plan with all of your heart 

Then you can start to make it better

La, la, la, la, la 

La, la, la, la, mm, hey UU

Betsy – Thanks to Angie and Linda for that wonderful song.

The quality of our relationships is the single biggest predictor of our health and well-being. The happiest times in our lives usually include other people. Having the support of others, feeling connected, and having a sense of belonging all elevate feelings of positivity and increased happiness. Simply put, we are wired to be in connection. Some of the hallmarks of productive relationships? They’re mutually supportive in both bad times and good; there’s an ability to be authentic and vulnerable with one another; and there are shared experiences that are not only enjoyable, but novel. 

Commitment is the foundation, the bedrock of any genuinely loving relationship. Initially shallow relationships may grow deep with time; if not, the relationship will crumble. Anyone who is truly concerned for the spiritual growth of another knows, consciously or instinctively, that he or she can significantly foster that growth only through a relationship of constancy.

Lynne – Thank you Louise and Betsy.

To continue the analogy of dating vs marriage

We’re goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get. what?

A called minister? This isn’t something that the Board does on its own. Or that a committee decides. This is a commitment that we all do together, as a congregation. It is a giant step we take together. Maybe, it is time.

In order to explain the process of this step, I’d like to take you on a journey of how we got here, where we are now and how the future unfolds.

How we got here. To some of us, this will be a memory refresher. But to many of you who are newer to the congregation, this might be a history lesson or what I am calling AUUC Minister Quest 101.

In the beginning, our little church was totally lay led. We were fortunate in that we had so many interesting members who were eager and willing to lead services.

But we knew, this could not go on forever. We had dreams.

First we started occasionally inviting guest speakers from the community and other faith traditions. This added greatly to the scope of our services. Not to mention giving members a break!

Then we went through a period of having different UU ministers visit a few times over several months. This was fun because not only did we get to see different styles of preaching, we started realizing the importance of having a preacher. But, we still had dreams.

With the help of a grant from the UUA we were able to hire our first part time contract minister, Karen Matteson. She commuted into town for her Sunday services and did a little of the normal minister stuff, but also importantly helped us develop our plans for future ministry.

Karen left after a year. Luckily for us, a short time later, Gaye Ortiz from the Augusta church was finishing up her ministerial studies and we were a perfect fit for her part time internship. Afterwards she became the minister in Augusta.

Then Roy Reynolds joined us part time for a year. He took on a bigger role than just the Sunday services. He really tried to help us figure out our way forward. Figure out what we were looking for. Figure out how to reach our dreams.

But, we were again back to being lay led, with occasional guest ministers or speakers. It was alright, because as I said before, we have some awfully interesting and capable members, but we knew it wasn’t where we wanted to stay. Those dreams just wouldn’t go away.

We started another search for a part time minister. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy. Very few candidates were looking for part time. The months dragged on. The search committee was about to give up. Then, a woman who could only work part time contacted us. I still remember her first interview. Julie,Thomas and I gathered in front of Julie’s computer. When we finished, we all kinda looked at each other, with big grins on our faces!

And as they say, the rest is history.

Over the past couple of years, as Debra has gone from half time, to three quarter time, to full time, we have seen what having a minister means. We have seen what it adds to our services, our relationships. We have seen how it enhances our place in the community. And we have seen how valuable our own minister can be during difficult times.

Remember that dating/marriage analogy:well, you could say we were dating those visiting ministers; maybe we were going steady with Karen, Gaye, Roy and the first year of Debra. Perhaps when Rev Deb became full time, we got engaged. But one thing is certain: our commitment to having a permanent minister has only grown.

Which brings us to now.

Maybe it is Time to take the plunge.

Time to make that all important commitment. Time to make the dream come true.

Last fall, the Board decided that it WAS time to pursue a called minister. Now they didn’t just sit down one day and say hey, let’s call a minister. No, this was a long time coming. You’ve heard about all the ministers we have had over the years. A minister has been part of the conversation since the very beginning. It has been discussed by countless boards. It has been mentioned in strategic plans. Our most recent strategic plan addressed this issue in more detail. In our focus groups, the desire for a full time minister was expressed by so many of us.

On a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the most favorable, all survey respondents rated the importance of a minister as a 5 or 6. The dream continues.

As Louise said earlier, the UUA has the whole process for calling a minister laid out. It is rather detailed and quite elaborate.

The Board decides the time has come. They must decide whether they are going to call their contract minister, if they have one, or do a search. Obviously, a search makes the process much longer. Obviously, if you have a contract minister that is generally well liked, the process is shorter and easier.

The first step the Board took was to approach Rev Debra to ask her if she would be interested in being our called minister. She said yes.

Their next step was to appoint a Called Minister Task Force. Its members are myself, Linda, Betsy, and Diane. Louise is our liaison with the COSM – the committee on shared ministry.

We met in December to review the handbook and educate ourselves about what we were getting in to! We designed the process we will use and developed a timeline.

One of the first UUA requirements for the task force was to present a call service. Here we are today. I know this isn’t the most entertaining service. But it is an important one! Its purpose is to inform you, the congregation, about the difference between a contract and a called minister and explain the path ahead. Remember, we do this together.

Over the next 2 months, we will organize small group meetings on Zoom. These will be our focus groups, where we can come together to voice our thoughts and concerns. Ask questions. When you get the email about group times, PLEASE sign up. We will have as many groups as are necessary so that everyone who wants, can be heard.

In April we will summarize the information from the Small Group Meetings and present our findings and recommendation to the Board and the minister. The Board then decides whether or not to endorse the Task Force’s recommendation and presents the report to the congregation. If the Board has decided to proceed with the calling, a Meeting of the congregation will be called.

Generally, it is recommended to have a separate congregational meeting specifically for the purpose of calling a minister. However, in light of the Covid world we are living in, the Board may decide to combine it with the annual meeting. We must have a quorum of at least 50% of our members. And a minister can be only be called with an 80% majority vote.

The next step, if a majority votes in favor, and after the fireworks, would be an installation ceremony. Most likely this would take place after we are able to gather together, so that we can truly celebrate this momentous occasion.

So yes, we are going to the chapel and we’re gonna get … a called minister?

Maybe it is time for the next step in the life of this church. Time to take the plunge.

Time to make that commitment. Time to make the dream come true.

Benediction  Linda

Fitted for This Day

By Kimberly Quinn Johnson 

We are the ones we have been waiting for.*

We are not perfect, but we are perfectly fitted for this day.

We are not without fault,

but we can be honest to face our past as we chart a new future.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

May we be bold and courageous to chart that new future

May we have faith in a future that is not known

We are the ones we have been waiting for.*